This post will come as a reminder for many readers. I’m not the first one to write about the word “crisis” in Japanese. I already wrote about it a few years ago in this blog.
When it comes to making puns on words, the Japanese language is like the French language. Similar sounds written differently have different meanings. (1)
The word “kiki” means “crisis” in Japanese. Kiki is composed of two kanji: “dangerous” + “opportunity”. So, a Japanese sees “crisis” as a “dangerous opportunity.” (2) It can be risky, but it doesn’t mean it is always wrong. I love this!
Opportunities are always moments where things can go wrong. The ability to take risks is what makes humans different from animals. Some humans will take significant risks; others won’t dare to move. But learning Budō is an opportunity to accept to take risks, and thus improve your survival skills. That is why you should never give up on your training. I know that this period of a pandemic can be challenging to many practitioners. A majority of Dōjō have closed with the lockdown, or are bankrupt after ten months of Covid. That is not a reason to quit! So, focus on “ki” (3), and turn this “kiki,” crisis, into “kikai,” a chance, an opportunity.
The moments we live these days might be difficult for many. But I’m confident they prepare us for a better life and embrace new opportunities. Human history is full of moments where a new paradigm replaces an old one.
Our Society will be different soon, and I want to believe it will be a wonderful (5) change. Kikai (4) will lead to kikai (4), a “chance” to experience a “mysterious” opportunity. Too many people die from the pandemic. And one death is one too many. But Covid is not the “Black Death” of the 14th century that killed 25 million people! (6) It is not the Spanish Flu that killed 20 to 50 million people worldwide. (7)
Hatsumi Sensei often speaks of the mysterious aspects of Budō. Now that we understand those terms better, it might help us get the essence of what he is teaching us. What we do on the mats is both wonderful, strange, and mysterious. The natural movement exists in the ether, and our body and mind render it visible. Each encounter, each fight is potentially dangerous. So, let the mysterious aspect of life deal with it, and there is a chance always to find success.
Success is an attitude. It is an action without intent. Once again it goes back to the Tao when Lao Tzu writes “don’t do anything, and nothing will be left undone.” The path of action is kikai, a course of opportunity and chance; and happening in mysterious ways.
- In French jump is “saut”, a bucket is “seau”, a seal is “sceau”, dumb is “sot, and they all sound like “so” in English!
- 危機, kiki: crisis; critical situation; emergency; pinch
- 機, ki: chance; opportunity
- 機会, kikai: chance; opportunity
- 奇怪, kikai: strange; wonderful; weird; outrageous; mysterious
- “Arguably, the most infamous plague outbreak was the so-called Black Death, a multi-century pandemic that swept through Asia and Europe. It was believed to start in China in 1334, spreading along trade routes and reaching Europe via Sicilian ports in the late 1340s. The plague killed an estimated 25 million people, almost a third of the continent’s population. The Black Death lingered on for centuries, particularly in cities. Outbreaks included the Great Plague of London (1665-66), in which 70,000 residents died.” from National Geographic.
“Lasting from February 1918 to April 1920, it infected 500 million people – about a third of the world’s population at the time – in four successive waves. The death toll is typically estimated to have been somewhere between 20 million and 50 million, although estimates range from a conservative 17 million to a possible high of 100 million, making it one of the deadliest pandemics in human history.”